Bears

Pearlman says Payton book is misunderstood

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Pearlman says Payton book is misunderstood

Friday, Sept. 30, 2011
Posted: 10:07 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
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It is not one of those things on which folks will be neutral. They arent now, by any means. And neither is the author.

Jeff Pearlman, author of the soon-to-be-released biography Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton, said on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet Friday that he understands the reaction to the excerpt of the book, which sets the book up as another sleazy expose.

Its not. And any feeling that his goal was to savage Paytons legacy and to just make a buck could not be further from the truth.

I love Walter Payton, Pearlman said. I love him a million times more now, understanding him as much as I feel like I do, than when I was just some guy, a fan reading love notes to him.

Not surprisingly, the reaction to the book (which really is just a reaction to the excerpt in Sports Illustrated, since the book wont be out until Oct. 4) rocked Pearlman.

Its been pretty fierce, Pearlman said. Ive never had a backlash like this in my life. It hasnt been the most fun day in my life.

Pearlman spent almost three years working on the book, doing nearly 700 interviews.

It is so not a lets slam Walter Payton or lets mock Walter Payton book, Pearlman insisted. Its been reduced, without anyone having read the book, to a Kitty Kelly sleaze job.

The problem now is that first impressions are difficult if not impossible to change, and the first impression created here is one of muck raking, because of what Sports Illustrated elected to excerpt in its current issue.

That involves, among other things, his depression that began after his retirement and part in the failed bid to buy the St. Louis NFL expansion franchise.

When you decide to write a definitive biography of someones life, that means youre taking everything, Pearlman said. Youre writing the good and the bad. It doesnt mean youre writing just the slap on the back, that everythings great.

The truth of the matter is that after he was done playing, he felt physically battered, he felt very much alone, his marriage was in shambles, he was depressed and sad. Would that have been the part I would have preferred excerpted in the beginning? Probably not.

But it was a true part of his life.

Family matters

The charges that the book had truths and untruths and did not have cooperation from Paytons family befuddles Pearlman. He had long interviews with Paytons son Jarrett, daughter Brittany, brother Eddie as well as Paytons mother.

The whole idea that I did not get family cooperation, Pearlman said, is just not true.

Pearlman has had hostile emails and other reactions, but no death threats.

This was really a labor of love for me, Pearlman said. I love Walter Payton. I love his life more now, actually understanding it and knowing it.

What he does not understand is the sentiment that if someone is beloved, we should never their flaws or shortcomings or setbacks or troubles that it is somehow sacrilege to say that a hero went through some of the same troubles that normal people do.

I do not feel that way, Pearlman said, citing a number of great biographies that dealt with both the good and bad in the life of the famous.

Bears fans will never take him off his pedestal, as Patrick pointed out. And Pearlman did not have an idea what the statute of limitations is or should be for writing this kind of biography.

But I guarantee you, when people read the full book, all 460 pages and not just the five in Sports Illustrated, theyll consider it a very detailed and all-encompassing and very fair look at his life.

There is more to Sweetness than the marital or drug or other issues. You will find out where the nickname Sweetness actually came from. Youll find out how old Payton actually was, and why it was different from the published age. And how he came to have a hamburgers-for-life card at Wendys.

Understandable slide

Paytons troubled post-football life was not a complete mystery to Pearlman. I think the adjustment for all athletes from super-duper star to just being asked about being a star, Pearlman said. Youre reminded of what you cant do anymore.... I really do find that sort of haunting.

Pearlman in fact did interview Payton, in 1999 not long after the press conference announcing his illness. He went to Paytons office and encountered an older gentleman in the outer office.

Im here to see Walter Payton, Pearlman said to the man.

Its nice to meet you, said the man.

The man was Payton. Pearlman did not recognize him.

I just hope people give the book a chance, Pearlman said.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Trubisky throw more?

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AP

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Trubisky throw more?

Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky air it out more often?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh, Adam Jahns and Mark Carman join David Kaplan to discuss the Bears' second straight win, a great defensive performance and minimal work by Trubisky.

Listen to the latest episode below:

Bears handling of Mitch Trubisky, run-pass balance fits a pattern as Leonard Floyd heats up

Bears handling of Mitch Trubisky, run-pass balance fits a pattern as Leonard Floyd heats up

Shaking some last crumbs out of the notebook after the Bears reached 3-4 with their 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers…

The thought that offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains somehow needs to loosen the leather restraints he’s put on quarterback Mitch Trubisky may be the head-scratcher of the weekend; more than just this weekend, really.

Set aside the mistaken notion that the only goal of the 2017 season is Trubisky’s development. First of all, that’s an objective, not a goal (winning is a “goal”); and somewhere in all this, the developments of Leonard Floyd, Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair might be at least a little important, but that’s digressing...

Realize that Loggains has been the boots-on-the-ground prime mover behind the plan and program that has had Trubisky on a developmental fast track practically since the quarterback was drafted. And Loggains is a self-professed “’I like to throw it’ guy” even if John Fox isn’t, although the 2016 season is worth a look regarding the latter’s feelings about throwing. More on that in a minute.

More to the play-calling specifically: Carolina was No. 2 in the NFL in sacks and a top-10 pass defense. Baltimore is 12th against the pass and tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (10). Loggains and the offense overwhelmingly ran the football against both of those defenses.

Against Minnesota, which is a more workable 17th in passing yardage allowed, the Bears ran 56 plays. Of those, 27 were pass plays, not counting Trubisky running three times.

Fold in this perspective: Loggains was part of the Adam Gase staff in 2015 when the Bears were a 54:46 pass:run ratio offense. Last year, with the quarterback mayhem of Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Jay Cutler-Matt Barkley, Loggains as OC threw the ball 61 percent of the time. Anyone who cared to look really closely at the “why” there would have seen that Loggains didn’t have an in-shape Jordan Howard early, by Howard’s own assessment, or a fully healthy Jeremy Langford late.

Meaning: Loggains has worked with what he had, both last year and now this year, when he doesn’t have Alshon Jeffery and Cameron Meredith, or Markus Wheaton (inactive for four of the seven games) for that matter, for Trubisky (or Mike Glennon) to catch passes. Fox wants an offense that, of its top five priorities, not turning the football is Nos. 1-4, and that’s what Loggains and Trubisky have given him.

The “culture” that’s increasingly evident in and around Halas Hall

Not every fun or revealing locker room quip should be reported. So when Leonard Floyd was bantering not too long ago with Akiem Hicks, the outside linebacker issued a declaration that I thought oughta stay in its corner of the locker room, at least until the young man played up to the bar he was setting for himself.

“I’m hot,” Floyd had informed Hicks, who gave every appearance of dismissing the boast as the overly self-hyping rant of a second-year NFL pup, more intent on finding a missing sock than indulging the youngster. “I…am…hot,” Floyd repeated to ensure that Hicks was on notice.

The good-natured by-play was more than just a little smack.

Floyd and Hicks have a friendly but definitely intense sack competition, Floyd has had four sacks over the last four games, to which Hicks has to up his game with four sacks over the last three. But for Floyd, his year heated up with his first 2017 sack, at Green Bay.

“It was that sack – when I sacked Aaron Rodgers – I felt ‘hot,’” Floyd said on Sunday after the Carolina win, in which Floyd was credited with four tackles, one for loss, and two quarterback hits. Floyd did sack Rodgers last season at Green Bay, forcing a fumble that Floyd recovered in the end zone. But “I didn’t have any sacks going into Green Bay [this year],” Floyd said, “so when I sack Aaron Rodgers, I know I can sack anybody."

Not that Floyd is superstitious or anything, but “I’m still wearing the same cleats I wore in that Green Bay game,” Floyd added, rummaging through his bag and extracting the well-worn, good-luck footwear.

Winning makes everything a little more relaxed, although conversely, actually “playing” football not uncommonly leads to winning as well. Whichever is cause and which is effect, something is noticeably different inside a team that not too long ago too many had been given up for NFL dead.